Couple fronts $140,000 cash to save North Philly community hub

Greg and Danielle Parker are serious about helping Sharswood.

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Instagram / Greg Parker
michaelawinberg-square-crop-feb2018

Real estate power couple Greg and Danielle Parker are not kidding around when it comes to reinvesting in the neighborhood where they grew up. Earlier this year, they bought out several North Philly movie theaters so kids could see Black Panther free of charge.

And a few weeks ago, they shelled out $140,000 to save a community hub.

The cash went to help Greg Bullock, a longtime Sharswood resident who was fighting to stay in a house on the corner of 26th and Master streets.

Bullock lived in that corner rowhome for two decades. In 2014, he lost his son to gun violence right outside the front door. In response, Bullock turned his home into a gathering place for the neighborhood. He’s fought to keep neighborhood kids off the streets by offering a water ice truck and starting jump rope, track and basketball programs at the playground across the street.

But when his landlord’s health started to decline late last year, Bullock was forced into a tough situation: come up with $125,000 to buy the property, or move out. For Bullock — whose house has become the lasting legacy of his son, Devin — leaving wasn’t an option.

The Sharswood home where Greg Bullock lost his son in 2014

The Sharswood home where Greg Bullock lost his son in 2014

Michaela Winberg / Billy Penn

Bullock tried several avenues to save his home, including seeking out loans from his family, friends and local politicians. Ultimately, none of these proved successful. On April 13 — just three days before his landlord would officially sell the house to a wholesale buyer — Bullock had mostly resigned to defeat.

“They had plans to kick me out,” Bullock said, “sending the sheriff to me that Monday.”

But in the nick of time, the Parker family swooped into the save the day.

The couple heard about Bullock’s struggle from several of his neighbors, Danielle said. The landlord had since upped the price of the property, and she offered him 140 grand in cash that same day.

“I’m still in shock,” Bullock said. “You’re going to have to tell me it happened. I still don’t believe it.”

It was a gift, Parker told Billy Penn, and she doesn’t expect Bullock to pay her back. She just wanted to help him continue his community outreach in Sharswood — the neighborhood where she was born and raised.

She grew up about five blocks from Bullock’s home, and she used to visit the recreation center where he runs most of his programming. She fondly remembers swimming in the pool and attending summer camp there every year as a kid.

A memorial flyer for Devin hangs in the front door of Greg Bullock's Sharswood home.

A memorial flier for Bullock's son hangs on the door of the rowhome

Michaela Winberg / Billy Penn

For Parker, Bullock’s struggle felt familiar. She’s experienced firsthand the prominence of gun violence in Sharswood, and as a mother, she sympathized with the loss of his only son.

“I felt his pain,” she said. “It was just heartfelt.”

Parker was so touched by Bullock’s story that she’s not stopping at purchasing the home. Next, she’ll fund some renovations, and will work with Bullock to turn the ground floor into an authentic water ice store. When that’s finished, she’ll fund some renovations to his living space on the upper floors.

“We want to make his water ice business a little bigger so the whole community knows about it,” Parker said. “Kids will be out of school soon, and they need that water ice.”

Meanwhile, this all still feels like a dream to Bullock. He alternates between feeling disbelief and profound excitement for the future. In the few weeks since he found out, he started planning a neighborhood picnic to celebrate.

Plus, he’s been stopping neighborhood kids on the street to tell them the good news.

“Little kids are walking by, and I’m like, you know we get to stay,” Bullock said. “They’re like, huh? They didn’t even realize there was a dilemma.”

For Bullock, this fight has always been bigger than one North Philly rowhome — keeping this property means maintaining Devin’s legacy.

“Everybody is saying congratulations and stuff, and I’m still numb,” he said. “I still don’t believe it.”

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